Some Additional Thoughts on the Date of Mahabharata War

Virendra N. Sharma

A number of scholars, including this one, have tried to pin down the date of Mahabharata war on the  astronomical references scattered in the epic, and quite a few of them computed dates generally around 3000 BCE.  However, a number of questions have to be addressed before any of these dates are given a serious consideration.

Consider the following:

The Language Question

The language of the epic is the same as that of the Bhagwad Gita.  According to Radhakrishnan, Gita is a document of around fifth century BCE, which suggests that the epic may also be of the same general period.

  1. Further, the oldest Veda, the Rigveda, is widely believed to be a document of about 1500 BCE.  Its language is archaic and markedly different from that of the epic. How is it possible that the language of the epic that was supposed to have been written some 1500 years before Rigweda is the same as that of a period after 1000 years after the Rigeda?

The Script

The script used by the author or authors of the epic appears to be based on the Brahmi. Can anyone say that the Brahmi script was in vogue in the days of the epic around 3000 BCE. Is Brahmi  script some 5000 years old?  If Brahmi or its some other form was in use during Mahabharata, 5000 years ago, what happened to it during the Harappa Mohanjodaro period which falls some 1000 or 2000 years after the epic.  So far as I am aware, no one has shown any similarity between Brahmi script and the symbols on the Harappa-Mohanjo Daro seals.

The Bharata

There had been at least three editions of the epic.  The earliest one is said to be of some 8000 verses and known simply as Bharata.  Those who have tried the “astronomical approach” tacitly assume that the planetary references of the epic belong to the very first edition, the Bharata.  To this date, no one has been successful in finding the earliest version,  the Bharata.

 Archaeological excavations

The events described in the epic supposedly happened in North India, the  area around Delhi, and Merath in the states of UP and Haryana.  The archaeologists have not been able to find any traces of a civilization corresponding to Mahabharata period or of 3000 BCE. Their diggings only indicate signs of a developed civilization after 800 BCE only. The diggings for the period earlier than 800 BCE reveal only a relatively undeveloped civilization.

In my opinion therefore, the Mahabharata may not have been written in 3000 BCE. but around 500 BCE or thereafter.  The epic’s aim is to spread a moral message, and the Bhagwat Gita is its crown jewel.  Any attempts to show that the events described in the epic did actually take place some 5000 years ago, or around 3000 BCE, is futile.  And the attempts by scholars to pin down a date based on astronomical reports, with modern computers, are no more than archaeo-astronomical exercises. 

PURÄNA

(Half-yearly Bulletin of the Purärpa-Department)

Published with the financial assistance from the Rastriya Sanskrit Sansthan, NewDelhi and Indian Council of Historica1 Research, New Delhi.

ON ASTRONOMICAL REFERENCES IN THE MAHÄBHÄRATA
– AN EXERCISE IN ARCHAEOASTRONOMY*

By
VIRENDRA N. SHARMA

Introduction

Mahäbhärata, the great epic of India describes a legendary war between royal cousins of Kuru dynasty, the Kauravas and Päqdavas, in which warrior princes from all over the subcontinent fought on one side or the other. It is widely believed that the narration centers around actual events that took place, some time between 3500 and 500 B.C. The author of the epic is said to be a sage –Veda Vyäsa—who according to the evidence of the epic itself, was a contemporary of and an eye witness of the events. However, the original version of Veda Vyäsa did not survive unaltered for long, as it was continually enlarged and new stories added to it over the centuries. I The present form of the epic is supposed to have taken shape by 400 A.D. and very little or nothing has been added to it since then.

A number of astronomical references, portents of calamitous events, are scattered in the epic around the time of the war. [1]Based on these references scholars have made numerous efforts to date the time of the epic. [2]However, most of these efforts have been before the availability of modern computers. [3]In this paper, the astronomical references of the epic are critically examined using computer programs and a possible date or dates of the events searched which will satisfy most of the astronomical references.[4]

[1] . It is sometimes said that the omens described in the epic Mahäbhärata have been directly borrowed from the Babylonian astrology. Howerver, we did not find any resemblance between the Babylonian omens and Mahäbhärata omens. See R. Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the magicians and astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon in British Museum, I (London, 1900).

[2] . A summary of views regarding the dating of the epic is given by S.P. Gupta and K.C. Ramachandran, Mahäbhärata myth and reality differing views, (Delhi, 1976).

[3] . For example see E. Vedavyas, Ast.ronomical dating ofthe Mahabharata war, (Delhi, 1986).

[4] . The computer programs used for this research were : 1 . modified version of Planetary Programs & Tables -4000 to +2800, Pierre Bretagnon/Jean-Louis Simon, (Richmond, 1986). 2. LoadStar Plus, Zephyr Services, (Pittsburgh, 1990). 3. CalMaster2000, Zephyr Services, (Pittsburgh, 1991).

Read the Full Original Article.

Sawai Jai Singh and His Astronomy

by Virendra Nath Sharma

Sawai Jai Singh, the statesman astronomer of 18th century India, made a great deal of effort to rejuvenate astronomy in India. Towards his ambitious goal, he designed astronomical instruments, built observatories, prepared a Zîj or a text for astronomical calculations, and sent a fact-finding scientific mission to Europe. His high precision instruments were designed to measure time and angles to the very limit of naked eye observations. At his observatories, Hindu pundits, Muslim nujûmîs, and European Jesuits worked side by side. Jai Singh spent enormous sums of money on his scientific pursuits and yet he failed to revive astronomy in India. Sawai Jai Singh and His Astronomy critically examines different facets of Sawai Jai Singh’s astronomical program and attempts to answer questions, such as, why he opted for naked eye masonry instruments when telescope had become common with European astronomers, and why he failed to rejuvenate the science of astronomy in the country.

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Sawai Jai Singh’s Efforts to Revive Astronomy in His Country

Abstract

This paper reviews Sawai Jai Singh’s (1688-1743) efforts to revive astronomy in his country. For this reviving, he erected observatories, designed instruments of masonry and stone, assembled a team of astronomers of different schools of astronomy such as the Hindu, Islamic and European, and finally sent a fact finding scientific delegation to Europe. Jai Singh did not succeed in his efforts. The paper explains that poor communications of his times and a complex interaction of intellectual stagnation, religious taboos, theological beliefs, national rivalries and simple human failings were responsible for his failure.

Keywords: Sawai Jai Singh, jai Singh, Astronomy, Indian Astronomy, History of Astronomy, Observatories in India, Masonry Instruments, Astronomical instruments, Jantar Mantar, Virendra Sharma.

(full article)

THE DATE OF MAHĀBHĀRATA WAR

ON ASTRONOMICAL REFERENCES IN THE MAHĀBHĀRATA AN EXERCISE IN ARCHAEOASTRONOMY*

Abstract

Mahābhārata, the great epic of India describes a legendary war which is believed to be based on actual events that took place anytime between 3500 and 500 B.C.

A number of astronomical references, portents of calamitous events, are reported in the epic around the time of the war. In the archaeoastronomical exercise undertaken for this paper, these astronomical references are critically examined. The exercise is based on a number of assumptions. One, the astronomical reports in the epic belong to the earliest version of the epic; and two, that they are based on visual observations and not on astronomical computations. Three, that the domain distributions of the lunar mansions of the Hindu astronomy, the nakatras, were different in the ancient times than they are today. With these assumptions,the paper reports that most of the planetary conditions described in the epic are satisfied around the date -3021 A.D.

(full article)

(full article – original format)